The IPL is over and India are ready to play the next series, against WI in the Caribbean. First, let me share some thoughts about the IPL and some players that I enjoyed watching.
I have been a Chennai fan from the time IPL started, so naturally I am thrilled that Chennai won this year's IPL and defended their title. What was nice to see that Chennai showed a sense of occasion and produced their best game of this year's IPL, in the finals. They did not have too many superstars other than Dhoni and, to an extent, Raina. But they did the smart thing by retaining 4 players and bought back a lot of their other players. In tournaments like IPL, it has now been proved that one important factor is player comfort with other players and coaching staff. Clubs with new teams took a long time to settle on the right combination and that showed in the performance. In that matter, other than Mumbai and Chennai, all teams had new-look teams. Even Mumbai had many different players from last 3 years, though they retained 4 players.
But the problem for Mumbai was not the player familiarity, but to some extent, Sachin's captaincy. It was shocking to see a great player like Sachin, who has so much knowledge of cricket in general, prove to be a very poor captain in terms of team selection and deciding batting order and bowling options. For instance, I am fairly convinced that Mumbai lost the semi-final against Bangalore in the very first over when Sachin gave it to Abu Nechim instead of Malinga, Munaf or Harbhajan, and Gayle looted 27 runs in that first over. Once again, like last year's final, he did not use Pollard properly, this time through the entire tournament. Also, Rayudu was doing very well at number 3 for most of the matches, but when he wanted to use Harbhajan as pinch hitter, he sent Rayudu all the way down to 6.
Now, let me write a a few lines about some players that I enjoyed watching. One guy I liked to see and who did very well, was Iqbal Abdulla. He played for KKR and is a wicket-taker. He bowls left-arm spin, which we badly need in the Indian team since the only one we have at the moment in this art, is Yuvraj. Abdulla is very young (I think 21), so the selectors should look at this guy hard and look to get him in the squads at least.
Another spinner I enjoyed watching was Rahul Sharma. He appears to be an Anil Kumble-like bowler who relies on bounce and accuracy to keep batsmen quiet and as a result, gets wickets as well. The only negative as far as he is concerned, is that he needs to develop some more variety like the googly and a decent leg-break, even if it does not turn too much. I remember Kumble started out taking lots of wickets because of the surprise factor when batsmen could not handle the ball coming in the air and particularly off the deck, so quickly. But around the late 90s and early 2000s, batsmen, particularly some Pakistanis and South Africans, started playing him like an inswing bowler and immediately, Kumble lost his effectiveness. Then he went back to the drawing board and developed a leg break that actually turned a bit, and a slower googly and promptly, started taking wickets by the bucketful again. Rahul Sharma needs to do something similar now itself and he has the best guru to learn it from, Kumble himself. I hope he sets up some time with Kumble sooner rather than later when the people and selectors are still having him in their minds.
Unfortunately, I could not spot much talent in the pace bowling department, which is our biggest concern at the moment regarding what will happen there once Zaheer leaves. Varun Aaron promised with his pace, and Sreenath Aravind is a good talent, who obviously benefited a lot from having Zak at mid-on during the matches. Other than these, I did not see much that excited me. Irfan Pathan clearly needs to bowl a lot more to be back to his old rhythm and confidence. Balaji is good, but can be in the rotation at best, along with Vinay Kumar and maybe one or two others.
I think this post has gotten too long, so I will post my thoughts on the Indian team for WI, in the next post.